Title: The Earl’s New Bride
Author: Frances Fowlkes
Publisher: Entangled Publishing, LLC (Scandalous)
Release Date: September 2015
Length: 214 pages
Series?: The Daughters of Amhurst #1
Genre: Historical Romance
The Earl of Amhurst has returned to his estate in search of a wife and, more importantly, an heir. Simon Devere isn’t interested in some comely, simpering creature. A beautiful woman only brings heartbreak and ruin, and Simon’s disfigured visage is proof enough of that. No, he wants a wife who is unattractive and undesirable—and the homelier, the better.
But nothing about Lady Henrietta Beauchamp is homely. She is lovely and sweet…and struggles to mix with polite society when she would so much rather have plants for company. And yet Simon is her only hope for keeping Plumburn Castle in her family’s possession. Even if it means marrying a man she doesn’t love.
It’s an impossible and unlikely match…unless this awkward beauty can bring hope back into a solitary beast’s life.
Simon Devere, recently inherited Earl of Amhurst, has been plagued for years by his choice in women – and their actions. After waiting five years to be exonerated of the murder of his mistress, Simon has been duped the Black Earl. Despite being completely innocent of the crimes he has committed according to the ton, the rumors and whispers continue.
With the title and lineage resting on his shoulders, Simon must select a wife and produce an heir to blackguard his brother from inheriting and wreaking his own destruction. To this end, Simon elects to choose the most plain of wives he can find. He enlists his friend Satterfield in arranging for six eligible ladies to arrive at Plumburn in order to choose a bride. Due to his reputation, the rumors, and his disfigurement, his scars scare the ladies.
Three of his choices are none other than his predecessor’s daughters, Henrietta, Sarah, and Albina, the younger two of which are twins. Lady Henrietta is an intelligent introvert, much preferring the presence of plants and poultices to parties and people due to her own impediment. While she plans to keep Plumburn for all of the fond memories it holds of her father – as well as her herb garden, she must come out of her shell. In a time when it was improper for a woman to learn things, Henrietta feels this – and her stutter – puts her at a disadvantage to all of the other eligible ladies, who one by one begin falling prey to mysterious illnesses and ailments.
Simon Devere – the new Earl of Amhurst with a scandalous past and a mission to marry
Henrietta Beauchamp – daughter of the recently deceased Earl of Amhurst, she dreams to keep the ancestral home
Sarah Beauchamp – Henrietta’s younger sister, Albina’s twin
Albina Beachamp – Henrietta’s younger sister, Sarah’s twin
Miss Saxton – one of Henrietta’s rivals, her father has powerful connections that Simon would be silly to pass up
Satterfield – Simon’s friend and semi-host, never questioned Simon’s innocence, self-proclaimed bachelor
Never had anyone placed any merits in her interests. At least no one outside of her father.
The Highs and Lows
- Flawed Characters. I loved that Fowlkes chose to have such physically flawed characters in a genre that purports itself on beauty and virility. Simon’s disfigurement is truly a disfigurement – there is visible scarring and he is blind in one eye. He keep this covered with a black silk patch that pains him late in the evenings. Henrietta is a beautiful and ethereal young woman, but as much as she looks the part of the doll of the London ton, she abhors crowds like the plague due to her stutter.
- Salacious and Sordid Past. The Black Earl earned his moniker from his sordid past, of which salacious rumors still abound. Even after five years and being cleared of any wrongdoing, the tabloids can’t keep his name out of print. His disreputable past combined with his hideous disfigurement does not turn the ladies’ heads. It is a battle to find a woman who will accept him with all of his flaws and failures, but that is not what he is looking for.
- Mysterious Illnesses. As the days progress at Plumburn, the ladies vie for Simon’s proposal, one by one they slowly fall suspect to a myriad of illnesses. After the second lady becomes ill, knowing what he does of Henrietta’s affinity with herbs, the Black Earl investigates the mysterious illnesses plaguing the women of his home. Already burdened with what’s published in the papers, he cannot afford to have the rumor mill stirred again with fresh material of another murder spree.
- Satterfield. Simon’s friend, Satterfield, is titled in his own right. It wasn’t ever said outright, but I feel he is older than Simon by a bit just from the way he interacted with the ladies of the house. Satterfield was a bit of a snake, and I’m still not sure how I feel about his character. In the end he made out to be all innocent of his trickery and deceit, and I didn’t like that. He was a villain that received redemption and his crimes glossed over and forgotten.
- Henrietta. Her character was so full of love that it was impossible to dislike her. She has suffered years with her stutter, and as a result has become an introvert. She was very fond of her father, who allowed her to study and learn with him, but he is gone now and she must find a means to secure her ancestral home. With Simon inheriting, the only way to do so is to marry him, but he must choose her out of an assortment of other eligible ladies.
- Sarah and Albina. Henrietta’s twin sisters are never really in the running, they are merely there because their mother is, so they must be chaperoned as well. Albina is a rather absent character whose only real stake in the plot is that she has an eye for Satterfield. Sarah, on the other hand, is very involved behind the scenes and tries her best to help Henrietta.
- Henrietta’s Mother. This woman was a bit insufferable. While Henrietta’s sisters sometimes seemed to overlook her sensitivity about her flaws, her mother did nothing but point them out. She is not the picture of the type of mother you would imagine had raised Henrietta. She surely did not learn her kindness and compassion from her mother, who lacks any. Whatever confidence Henrietta has, her stepmother bulldozes it.
The Black Earl has more on his plate than he imagined when he allowed his friend Satterfield to set up a soiree. He not only has his own flaws and the continuing rumors to overcome, but he must get a handle on the mounting mysterious illnesses and channel his jealousy when another shows interest in Henrietta.
Henrietta is indeed a doll. She is not one to give in to social structures, but criticizes herself when she doesn’t. A victim of her own clumsiness, she has a few embarrassing incidents and I found that very endearing.
Recommendation – Buy, Borrow or Skip?
While this one is very light on accurate historical context, it is a quick and light read with interesting and developed characters. I recommend borrowing.
After viewing her all-time favorite love story, “Anne of Green Gables”, at the impressionable age of ten, Frances Fowlkes has been obsessed with affable boy-next door heroes, red-heads, and romance stories with lots of “highfaluting mumbo jumbo” written within their pages. It only seems natural then that she married the boy who used to pull on her curls in her high school English class, had not one, but THREE red-headed boys, and penned multiple love stories with bits of flowery prose.
When not writing, Frances loves spending time with her family, fangirling, and planning her next vacation.
Frances Fowlkes, originally a northern mid-westerner, now lives in the southeast with her ardent hero of a husband, three playful and rambunctious boys, and one spoiled standard poodle.
A self-professed Anglophile and summa cum laude graduate of LeTourneau University, Frances Fowlkes combines her passion for happily-ever-afters with her interests in both American and English histories.